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Crum Bows Out As Cardinals Fall

Denny Crum had hoped for a different outcome in his coaching finale.

Crum coached the last game of his career Wednesday night at Freedom Hall, where he won 373 times. The game included an embarrassing moment and a disappointing finish.

Crum was the visiting coach and he walked to the wrong bench before Louisville's eventual 74-61 loss to UAB in the first round of the Conference USA tournament.

The ninth-seeded Cardinals wore their red road uniforms and were relegated to the visitors' bench against the eighth-seeded Blazers.

"I wish I could've finished it at the other end," said Crum, who finished with 675 wins in 30 seasons. "It was such a weird feeling."

His familiarity with the home bench led to some pregame confusion.

Crum emerged from the locker room about five minutes prior to tipoff and waved to fans as he went to his usual seat on Louisville's bench.

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  • Before he sat down, Louisville sports information director Kenny Klein told him his mistake, and he and assistant coach Scotty Davenport escorted Crum to the bench usually used by Louisville opponents.

    "That's where I'm used to being, that's where I'm comfortable. But that just shows what pressure does to you," Crum said after the game.

    A fan held up a sign that read "No Pitino" as Crum made his way to the correct bench. The sign referred to speculation that former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino would succeed Crum. Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich will meet with Pitino this weekend to discuss the job.

    "Whatever decision Tom makes, I'll support it," Crum said. "I hope everyone gets behind him. I'll still look forward to coming to games."

    Crum announced his retirement last Friday, his 64th birthday. Th next day, an energized capacity crowd spurred Louisville to a 65-56 victory over Memphis in its regular-season finale.

    The arena had several hundred empty seats on Wednesday night, and the Cardinals didn't play with the same intensity they showed on Saturday.

    The Blazers led by four at halftime and pulled away early in the second half.

    Still, few fans left before the final buzzer.

    Crum tensely clutched his trademark rolled-up program with both hands as fans started chanting "Denny! Denny!" in the game's final minute. Davenport held his head in his hands and fought off tears as the ovation grew to a roar.

    After a brief television interview, Crum left the floor for the last time, stopping to wave to the four corners of the arena. He exhaled deeply and fought off tears as he walked into a tunnel toward the Louisville locker room.

    "This has been a 30-year love affair," Crum said. "The basketball part is over, but that's OK. I wish it hadn't ended here tonight, but I don't regret anything.

    "Nobody has fans as good as ours," he said. "They're great people, and they've always supported me. They'll get behind whoever is the coach, whoever can get this program back on top."

    Crum finished with a 675-295 record. His win total ranks 15th among Division I coaches and his .695 winning percentage ranks 14th. Crum was the last active coach in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

    "I don't know how to explain my emotions," Crum said. "I feel blessed. I think I'm one of the luckiest guys."

    This year's Louisville squad was only the third to finish below .500 under Crum. The team was not his worst. Louisville's 1997-98 squad went 12-20.

    Crum will turn much of his attention to horse racing. He lives on a thoroughbred farm in Jefferson County and co-owns Nasty Storm, a filly who ran in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. He has talked about entering the horse in this year's Kentucky Oaks.

    Crum will marry Susan Sweeney, a local television anchorwoman, on June 9. Crum, who has been married twice before, has three children and two grandchildren.

    "I have really neglected my family," he said. "I'm looking forward to catching up with them and doing a lot of things."

    ©2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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